Chapter 22: Sinker

“Know mercy for what it is: the plea of the ant to the boot.”
– Queen Elizabeth Alban of Callow

They were a lovely sight, in that terribly foreign way that was the mark of the fae.

Seven of the Fair Folk attacked under cover a rain and thunder, each of them some painter’s wild dream made into flesh. The vanguard came as a matching pair, swift in their stride and a pleasure for the eye to behold: their skin like honey and their eyes a pale grey, they wore cuirasses and vambraces of copper so perfectly burnished they looked like the surface of a still pond. Beneath those a long robe ending in skirts had been woven of dead grass in grey and yellow, the colours perfectly matching those of their long and flowing hair. Each bore a single long blade, fashioned whole from what seemed like a single strand of dead grass – the straight edges of the blades crooned as they touched the winds, though, as if they were so keen even the storm was cut by their touch. They were titled, both of them. I could feel it. Yet they were not among the greats of whatever Court had sent them, servants of higher powers.

One such power stood behind them. Towering in height but slender in his build, the fae was a splendid sight: an armoured and tunic of woven brass and bright-red flame, glittering with rubies, went down to his thighs, loose and long-sleeved. Below, long skirts that were a netting of gold filled with brass yet as supple as cloth swung over black-skinned bare feet. What little skin was left bare by the slender helm of brass and smouldering charcoal, its long cheek guards of carved red opal going down to a round collar of gold touched with flickering embers, was just as dark in tone. As if the two burning red eyes set in the elegant face had charred the fae entirely, I thought. In his right hand was held a rounded kite shield, woven together from frozen bright-red fire, while in his left he held a bastard sword hilted in gold and ruby but whose blade was pitch-black and smouldering.

I caught sight of the last four, before the storm swept over me, but only glimpses. A tall woman bearing a great antlered helm, or perhaps antlers, face painted with streaks of blood-red and bone-white as she wielded a spear of twisted bone. A small figure, almost childlike, trailing long strands of straw like a dress or a cape and whisper-swift on its feet. A calm-faced man wearing a strangely nostalgic smile, sprouts of green twisting around him like a bandolier and a quiver. And behind them all, an amber-eyed woman with a sizzling grin, messy hair swept around by the wind as lightning crackled up her frame and she guided the storm. That one was the most powerful among them, I sensed, and if she was not at least a Duchess I would eat my own hand. There was no time to consider that in depth, though, for the wind and rain and lightning hit me like someone had thrown a damned wall at me.

I took half a step back, cursing, and had to shift my weight so I wouldn’t be outright blown off. My mantle flapped like a banner behind me, and I dragged my crown down on my brown so it wouldn’t fly off.  This wouldn’t do, I couldn’t see a bloody thing in this wind and rain and –

Bordel de merde,” I swore in Chantant, throwing myself to the side even as lightning struck.

It still singed the edge of my face, and I grimaced at the burning of my skin. My hair might well have caught fire, if not for the rain. I rolled up into a kneel and drew deep of the Night as I brought up my staff, only to smash it down on the stone. The thing with Night was that, for all its wondrous flexibility, it tended to fare pretty badly in straight-up fights against other powers. Light most of all, but sorcery tended to come out on top as well and I suspected that the work of the fae would behave just the same. Night was the power of a thief, not a soldier, and always shone best when there was no struggle to be had. Which was why even though these days I probably had as much raw might to throw around as my current opponent, if not more, I did not try to unmake the storm. Instead a bursting bubble of darkness spreading out created an oasis of calm within it before fading but leaving the boundary maintained. I rose gingerly to my feet.

“Come now,” I said. “If I know a single thing about the likes of you lot, it’s that you literally cannot refuse an invitation like this. Don’t be so coy, my lords and ladies.”

A rich chuckle answered me as the dark-skinned fae that wore flame like cloth strode out of the storm in front of me, bare feet not even a whisper against the stone. His sword stayed pointing at the ground, his shield loose in his grip.

“It is my honour to make your acquaintance, Queen of Lost and Found,” the burning-eyed fae said. “Your cavalier grave-robbing of Winter is legend among our kind.”

Distraction, I mused. He might as well have it carved into his forehead – which meant the twins were either about to flank me or already using the storm as cover to burst out and make a run at Masego’s quarters. If it was the latter, I could only trust in the ability of Roland and the Blessed Artificer.

“And who is it that I speak to?” I replied, clicking my tongue. “What Court boasts such poor manners?”

Dead grass, fire, harvest, hunt and storms. Tough the spread of those displayed dominions was not small, it did bring a season to my mind over others. Best to have it confirmed by fae tongue, though.

“Manifold apologies, Your Majesty,” the fae bowed. “I am the Count of Ravenous Flame, presently at your service and ever to that of my master, the Prince of Falling Leaves.”

Fuck, I thought. So they really were here to prove the Hunted Magician’s epithet was well-deserved. Yet beneath the dismay there was something like triumph: Masego, that glorious bastard, had been right once again. Somewhere out there the ruling mantle of the Court of Autumn still existed. There was evidently a lot more power left to it than we’d believed, if there were enough nobles left to call on to assault the Arsenal, but the principle of Quartered Seasons had been sound all long even if we’d been unable to prove it.

“You’ve given me a greater gift than you know, Count,” I grinned. “So I give you this in return: if you flee now, I will not pursue.”

To my surprise, the nobleman bowed.

“Your capricious arrogance was everything I hoped it would be,” the Count of Ravenous Flame replied, “count no debt here, Queen of Lost and Found, for anything I might have gifted by happenstance has been repaid twice over.”

The moment he began talking I knew where this was headed: as the Count spoke the last word of his superficially friendly answer, I took a sudden step back and avoided getting skewered by two crooning blades as they thrust where I had been standing a heartbeat before. By the height, the blows would have slid between two of my ribs and punctured my throat. I was almost admiring: fae were rarely so precise in their attempted murder, or so flawlessly synchronized. I was not, however, so admiring that I did not immediately punish that predictable flair for the theatrical: the rightmost of twin fae in copper and grass was smashed in the back of the head by my staff, which sent it stumbling into the other’s way. They both spun away towards the Count, smooth in their recovery, so I tossed a handful of blackflame at the left one’s grass skirts and watched the flame take with some satisfaction. It cut away the grass-cloth before the burn could spread, but by then I was gathering Night and our little skirmish had borne more pressing developments. The Count of Ravenous Flame entered the fray.

“A spark, a birth,” the Count sang, his voice soothing like the warm crackling of bonfires.

As he strode forward, he trailed sparks. I would have interrupted whatever it was he was doing but the rightmost twin kept me busy: its wings burst to life in a flicker and it used a beating of them to help itself into a backwards leap that would have led it behind me, blade at the ready, if I’d not traced a trail of blackflame in the path. The wings beat again, ending the leap, but by then I’d positioned my staff under it and let loose with a concentrated burst of Night. I caught only its shoulder, but that much I tore right through. The fae screamed in pain, but by then then Count of Ravenous Flame had gotten just enough time to proceed unimpeded.

“A hunger, a swell,” the Count sang, voice gone the way of the blaze. “I command you, dimming fire, herald of plenty to lack: devour all you behold, ravenously.”

The sparks had strengthened, turned to flame, and been swept up in the thunderstorm around us. Only instead of being put out by the rain the fire had spread, as if the very wind was oil, and a howling blaze surrounded us even as the ember-eyed Count of Autumn laughed.

“Perish,” he told me, “so thoroughly that naught of you is left to be lost or found.”

Damn, I thought, reluctantly impressed. That was a pretty good line to kill me on, if he could pull it off. Already Night was coursing through my veins and as the Count of Ravenous Flame raised his black blade high, heat and fire swirling around it as he commanded the blazing storm, I began shaping my answer.

“The hand in greed can only clutch sand,

Even exquisite passion, the lover’s brand

Is a vainglorious army headed for rout:

Ardour fall spent, the flame gutters out.”

The verse was spoken in Chantant, barely more than a whisper against the roar of the blaze, and yet it slithered through the burning storm like snake. I knew the voice that’d recited it, that deep and resonant tone that was decadently pleasing to the ear, and the sorcery it was laced with ate at the gathered fires like spreading rot. Even as the Count of Ravenous Flame fought to keep hold of it, the Exalted Poet’s verse tore at his work like some divine candle snuffer.  An opening, I thought with a wolf’s smile, and abandoned the spinning threads I’d been about to shape Night into in favour of something with a little more bite. When the twin fae came for me this time, wielding their blades of grass, I was ready for them and without a distraction to handle.

One came high, leap aided by wings as its blade whistled down towards my skull, while the other came low: knees bending low beyond what a human body would have allowed, its sword whipped out aiming for the femoral artery on my left leg. It was a close thing, spinning my staff so that the lower part went up and swatted aside the strike about to cut into my skull while the upper part going down nudged the other blow to pass harmlessly between my legs, but worth the risks: with the two fae over-extended in their strikes, neither of them were able to avoid my reply. Two small tendrils of Night sprang out of my staff, shooting out and puncturing the skin of the fae near the throat. The moment they did I dumped all the power I’d gathered, in just the right way, and I got maybe two heartbeats before the fae managed to retreat far enough the tendrils broke.

“You may consider this end,” I told them, “courtesy of Mighty Urulan, once of Great Lotow.”

I’d never seen anyone melt from the inside before, but considering the sheer among of acid I’d pumped into their veins it was no surprise that within moment the two fae were bleeding, broken corpses-to-be falling apart as they tried to crawl away. As I’d thought, that was a particularly nasty trick to be on the receiving end of when your body wasn’t entirely made up of smoke and mirrors.

Dieux du ciel,” the Fallen Monk hoarsely said, sounding sickened.

The Exalted Poet’s trick – had that been an aspect or was he potentially more useful than I’d thought? – had killed the flame and the storm with it, restoring a broader line of sight to me. The Fallen Monk, looking more than a little singed and bleeding from messy wounds on his shoulder and belly, threw a wineskin into the path of a sapling-green arrow loosed by the fae adorned in vines I’d glimpsed earlier. The arrow sprouted wild growth as red wine sloshed all over the ground, a young tree falling on the stone and spasming a few times before it began to swiftly wither. That explained the messy wounds, I thought. The Monk had been quick enough to rip the arrows out before that could happen inside his body. Good on him, Named or not those roots would have shredded muscles. The Exalted Poet himself was bruised and battered, but there was a reason he’d been able to ply his tricks: he was currently without an opponent.

Given the lack of corpses and two missing fae – the childlike one wearing straw and the antlered huntress in blood and bone – I’d bet that they had casually slapped him down before making a run upwards. The telltale noises of battle sorcery being used further up good as confirmed it, Roland seemingly making a gallant effort of swatting the fae back down. The real threat, though, was the fae still in the back. The grinning one with the amber eyes, who’d opened the games by casually throwing an entire storm at us. She still there, grin broader than ever as she watched us struggle. You’re the most powerful of this pack, I thought, so you have to be a at least a Duchess. A Count would not defer to her otherwise. So why was I finding these opponents so… lacking? Perhaps it was simply that I was no longer a squire or a bastard duchess of my own, and that I’d faced greater monsters since, but I’d just ridden a Baron of Autumn down a drop and killed him without much effort.

Something was wrong here.

Boots squelching wetly as I walked through the dissolved remains of the twin fae, I rolled my shoulder to limber it.

“Poet,” I said, “help the Monk. I’ll be handling our friend the Count, and the kind lady out back if she’d care to introduce herself?”

A lie, I did not intend to have them fight any of these three right now if I could avoid it, but it was a useful lie so long as the grinning fae heard it.

“You presume much, mortal,” the Count of Ravenous Flame chided me.

His long blade rose, and his shield rose with it. I flicked a glance at the Exalted Poet and got a nod confirming he’d heard. Good, I could put most of my attention on the last two then.

“Where’s all that sweet queen talk gone, Count?” I grinned. “Still, if you keep talking for your lady I’ll have to assume she’s a mute – or that you have the right to choose her words for her.”

The Count seemed to shrink on himself at that. Fear, I judged. That’d been hard, blood-curling fear at even the possibility that the fae behind him might take offence to his behaviour. That went some way in confirming the pecking order, at least. The Prince of Falling Leaves might be his ultimate master, but where there was a captain there was a lieutenant.

“My dear Aedon is guilty of only eagerness to serve me,” the amber-eyed fae laughed. “But your point is taken, Queen of Lost and Found. You stand before the Duchess of Rash Tempest.”

“Delightful name,” I smiled, all pretty and friendly with just a little too much teeth. “Would you mind ordering your servants to cease attempting to murder mine as long as we are talking? It’s most uncivilized.”

“Alas, oath was given,” the Duchess shrugged. “I cannot recall those I have sent.”

“But our green-clad friend here…” I suggested, gesturing towards the fae archer facing the Poet and the Monk.

“That boon I can deliver,” the Duchess of Rash Tempest grinned, “for a price.”

Ah, and now we came to the bargaining. If I could keep her talking, and the two fae with her down here with us, then I might be able to send my own two companions upwards to help Roland and the Artificer before all of us came down to tangle with these three together. The key to keeping control of this would be offering terms before she could make demands, since letting fae pick their careful words was a good way to get stabbed by them.

“I’ll offer you the last words of a king,” I said, “and the dream of a hard-fought defeat, not a decade old.”

The Duchess went still. Yeah, I’ve dealt with your kind before, I thought with grim amusement as something like greed seized those amber eyes. I know what your lot is hungry for.

“A generous offer,” the Duchess of Rash Tempest said, “perhaps too generous.”

So she wanted to avoid being in my debt if I was judged to have overpaid, huh. Fair enough.

“I would consider us even, given the might of your servants and the feebleness of mine,” I replied.

I heard the Fallen Monk let out a snort of laughter, and the Exalted Poet an indignant yelp – though he took an arrow in the thigh not long after, and I was interested to see he produced a strip of parchment as he sang a verse in what I thought might be Ceseo. Though the sprout-arrow savaged his flesh, by the time the verse had been fully recited it had turned to dust and the Poet’s flesh was healed, if heavily scarred.

“Then by these terms I strike bargain with you, Queen of Lost and Found,” the Duchess of Rash Tempest said.

“Bargain struck,” I agreed. “You two, hurry up and help the Rogue and the Artificer with-”

There was a blinding flash of light, or perhaps Light, and something like a massive thudnerstrike sounded, followed by an inhuman scream.

“That,” I completed. “Help them with that.”

“At your service, mistress,” the Fallen Monk said, sounding deeply amused.

“Are you certain you would not like me to remain and record-” the Poet began, then I turned a dark look onto him, “- your wisdom touches me, Black Queen, and so I promptly heed it.”

They moved, and for now I put them out of my mind.

“Amusing,” the Duchess of Rash Tempest said. “Yet you tarry in fulfilling our bargain.”

“I would never,” I smiled, then added in Crepuscular, “My crown I abdicate, and let the worthiest of you bear it.

Larat had been king for a moment, after all, even if his first and last decree had been one of abdication.

“I do not know this tongue,” the Duchess hissed.

“Then you should have bargained more precisely,” I chided her. “But perhaps this will be more to your taste?”

I wove a bubble of Night carefully, using strands of the vision Sve Noc had given of the battle between the Dead King and Vesena Spear-Biter’s sigil, and blew it towards her. I had no intention whatsoever of giving her any of my memories, even if she might have taken that from the sentence. Disappointment flickered, but hunger won over it soon enough. The Duchess of Rash Tempest’s lips opened in a sigh, as the bubble landed on her palm, and she laid delicate fingers against the Night.

The bubble popped.

I’d offered her the dream, not the right to see it, and if she had been unable to keep that dream once given that was hardly my fault, was it? The Duchess turned her amber eyes to me, her face gone frozen with hate.

“What a clever creature you are,” she said.

“Nah,” I denied, “you’re just not as good as this as you think you are.”

“Neither are you, I’m afraid,” the Duchess replied.

The bowstring twanged and a green arrow whistled as it was loosed at me and I was forced to hastily duck out of the way. Ah, true. While I’d bargained for her servants to stop fighting mine we’d never said anything about them fighting me. The Count of Ravenous Flame sprung forward, bare feet unseemly quick as his eldritch sword and board came barrelling towards me.

“Hey, Duchess,” I grinned, even as I gathered Night. “Wanna make a bet?”

“Why would I, when you’ve proved such a feckless debtor?” the amber-eyed fae replied.

The Count was on me before I could answer, sword down and pointing towards me as his shield crackled with the sound of flame. At the last moment he shifted his footing a step and a half to the right, revealing the green arrow whose whistle the crackling had been meant to hide, and clove at my side. I swallowed a curse, for it’d been clever work, but with my free hand caught the edge of the Mantle of Woe and swept it around me. It caught the arrow, but my hasty attempt to push back the cleave with a strike of my staff had me on the losing side. I was thrown back two paces, rolling only to rise into another arrow, perfectly aimed at my throat. A lash of Night erupted from my hand to torch it, but once more the Count of Ravenous Flame smashed into me from the side. A staff was not a sword, with a guard and a proper grip, so even though I caught the blow again the strength of it had the Count’s blade sliding down and biting into the flesh of my hand. I half lost a finger there and felt something unpleasant slithering into my blood from the wound.

“Back,” I snarled, and Night flooded my veins.

It purged the poison, feeling like ice coursing through me. I struck my staff against the ground, Night billowing out like a wave, and the arrow loosed at me was swept aside even as the Count of Ravenous Flame retreated out of range with a wing-aided leap backwards. I forced calm onto myself, even as blood dripped down my knuckles.

“I get it,” I told the Duchess of Rash Tempest, “you don’t believe you’d be able to get the best of me, if we had a wager. I sympathize, it’s a regrettably common affliction.”

“You are attempting to goad me,” the amber-eyed fae said.

“I am succeeding at goading you,” I corrected with an unpleasant smile. “To quote a clever creature of my own acquaintance: a well-laid trap does not rely on surprise but on the opponent’s nature.”

She had to accept a bet, if I offered it and it looked like she might win. Because she was better than me, greater and cleverer, and she must always get the last laugh with us poor mortals.

“You witty little thing,” the Duchess laughed. “What might you even offer as a wager worthy of my time?”

“A duel with Count of Ravenous Flame,” I said, “where I will be considered to have lost if I kill him with either Night or my staff.”

“You insolent insect,” the Count snarled.

“Those are all you have,” the Duchess of Rash Tempest said, and then looked like she had swallowed a lemon. “I accept, you fool.”

How unpleasant it must be, to be able to see the shape of the snare but be driven by your nature to step into it anyway.

“Should I win I want you to answer me five questions, fully and true,” I said.

“Should you lose I will have your name, freely given,” the Duchess replied.

Ambitious, but then if it got to that the odds were better I’d die.

“Bargain struck,” I said.

“Bargain struck,” she echoed. “My Count of Green Apples, do head upwards.”

Count of Green Apples? No, it wasn’t the same. It was the Duke of Green Orchards that we’d fought at Dormer all those years ago. And yet when my gaze found the fae in question, he offered me a sly smile before wings bloomed at his back. His face… It’d been a while since I’d thought of the opponent of that night, the creature who’d butchered my Gallowborne and burned Nauk into a mere shadow of himself, but I was nearly certain there was a resemblance there. That was troubling, considering I’d been very thorough about killing that Duke and Hierophant himself had pulverized what had been left of the remains. I didn’t have the time to ponder that any further, though, because the moment the bargain had been struck my duel with the Count had begun. I breathed out, settled myself.

A duel, huh.

“Gods,” I murmured, “it’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

The Count of Ravenous Flame advanced in his full splendour, armour glittering in the eerie light of the Belfry, a flick of his long sword gathering bright-red flame along the edge. It was tempting to watch the feet, for against all sorts of opponents the footing told a truer tale of intent than the guard, but against fae it was next to useless. Their bodies did not entirely work like those of mortals, and wings allowed them to further differ from what even Named could accomplish.  My right hand was slick with blood, but the same numbing of sensation that had prevented my leg from hampering me kept the throbbing pain of it quiet, and as I widened my stance and drew a foot back I seized the long staff of yew like a spear without a tip. Far above us sorcery crackled, and voices both human and not mingled in war cries.

“Burn,” the Count of Ravenous Flame hissed.

He swung his sword and a wave of flame followed, hiding him from my sight, but I’d seen that tactic used before. Used it myself, even back when I still had ice to throw around. Night gathered at the tip of my staff, forming into a full circle hovering just beyond the wood, and when the Count burst out of his own obscuring wave of flame with his sword half-swung and shining red wings behind him, it was to eat a blast of pure Night in the stomach that smashed him back. My turn. I slipped through the opening in the flame, Mantle of Woe trailing behind me, and even as Night gathered at the of the staff I thrust at the Count’s chest. He recovered in time, though, shield covering him and the small burst of power that followed impact slid off harmlessly. He raised his shield, smashing down the point of my staff, but I deftly withdrew and slid in a strike just over the rim of his descending shield.

It was slapped away with the side of his blade, followed by a beautiful pivot to turn that slap into a backswing straight at my neck. I ducked low, swing passing overhead, but my unstable footing was punished by a hasty kick that hit my chest and had me falling backwards. I abandoned the staff to break the fall with my hands, weaving Night and leaving it to clatter against the ground even as the red-eyed Count adjusted his footing and prepared for a thrust that would go right through my throat.

“Gotcha,” I smiled, pulling at the slender strings of Night connecting my hands to the staff.

The length of yew smashed through the back of the Count’s feet, toppling him, and by the time he’d broken the fall with his wings the staff was in my hands and pointed right at his head. A slender arrow of Night, not powerful but quick and piercing, tore right through the golden round collar and into flesh. Not so quickly it was not slapped aside by a strike of the shield before it could go through the fae’s throat, but that was the opening I’d been waiting for. In striking, he’d exposed his shield arm – the arrow released, I wielded the staff to hit his exposed elbow before releasing a small burst of Night. Not enough to hurt, but enough to continued feeding the momentum of the movement. He kept spinning, sword arm rising to stabilize his footing, and there I struck again: the piercing arrow of Night went through the wrist like a harpoon, I dragged him back in a spin and the sword the fingers had been grasping went flying.

Without hesitation I threw my staff down onto his knees, impeding his attempt to twist around. One, two, three limping steps to the side, and even as Night flowed through my veins and lent me unnatural precision the Count of Ravenous Flame turned, just in time to watch my fingers close around the hilt of his sword. Burning eyes widened in fear as I stretched out with a grunt and turned that catch into a descending thrust. The shield went up, or would have if my free hand had not pulled at the strings on the staff to smack its length down onto the fae’s wrist. It slowed the defence just long enough that my thrust drove deep between those lovely red eyes, finding a deadly sheath. Silence followed in my wake, as I flicked my wrist and ripped the sword clear of the corpse.

“Damn me, but I I’ve missed this,” I admitted with a sigh.

The enemy and I in the pit, fighting to the death, without any of the unending shades and subtleties that my life held these days. Just steel and cunning and the desperate need to live. My eyes went to the amber-eyed Duchess, finding her looking furious.

“You owe me five questions,” I said.

“Ask them,” the Duchess of Rash Tempest snarled.

“Who rules the Court of Autumn?” I asked.

“No one.”

Which meant the mantle was laying there for the taking, if we could just find it. My blood thrummed with excitement. It could be done. The second part of Masego’s theory, the one that made a weapon of the crown, it was possible. We might yet kill a god, or do something a great deal worse.

“Why have you come here?” I asked.

“To collect a debt left unpaid,” the Duchess said.

I waited patiently.

“And to repay that which we owe,” she added.

Been hoping I’d ask the next question before she was finished answering, huh? It wasn’t my first time interrogating her kind, I wouldn’t fall for that.

“Who do you owe that debt to?” I pressed.

“She who told us where the Hunted Magician is,” she grimaced. “The Wandering Bard.”

Fucking finally, I thought, satisfaction welling up inside me. I’d gotten it out of the mouth of fae, entities that literally could not lie: the Intercessor had attacked a villain protected by the Terms. Even the Grey Pilgrim would have to bend his neck now. Every single Named in the Grand Alliance would get a warning about the Bard being a hostile and dangerous entity. A warning backed by the most prominent heroes of the age as well as my own not inconsiderable reputation, let her try to talk her way out of that.

“In what way are you to repay the debt?” I asked.

“We are to destroy the contents of a certain room,” the Duchess of Rash Tempest said, “and break a sword.”

Shit, they’re going after the Severance as well, I realized. Had I been right, was the Intercessor really just trying to strip away every path out of the deeps we were swimming in except the one she’d let Hasenbach find? If so, this was just the beginning of our troubles.

“Do you have any allies in the Arsenal that are not fae?” I asked.

“Yes,” the Duchess said. “Though I know not their identity, only that they can make themselves known to us through a certain phrase.”

I supposed keeping the fae in the dark about the traitor Named was only natural, given the number of mages here we had that’d be able to rip that information out of them.

“Victory is transient,” the Fallen Monk said, sliding a dagger into my jugular.

127 thoughts on “Chapter 22: Sinker

  1. breakingamber

    Well, that didn’t take long.

    How convenient. Stupid Monk.

    Cat is probably going to be fine? I hope so. It would be quite a twist if the rest of the book focused on the heroes and villains attempts to solve the murder of the Black Queen, the foremost villain of their age, the Queen of Lost and Found, and stalwart opponent of both the Intercessor and the Dead King.

    Liked by 19 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Nah, my previous theory now seems more likely.

      The Sinister Physician wasn’t introduced as a scooby doo villain, seen just long enough to be recognized at the end… he’s the story’s provided spare. When the traitor (or at least the first traitor) is revealed and dealt with, you are going to need a new fifth member. How convenient that said member happens to be a healer.

      Liked by 21 people

    2. Nah, this was basically the plan. Intercessor had compromised someone and aimed them at the red axe, and they were supposed to betray Cat by implicating her in the death. But Cat drew all the most likely traitors together and narratively forced the traitor to blow the betrayal they’d have got out of the story on literally stabbing Cat in the back instead. The bard’s plan for the story is successfully derailed. Or at least that’s how I read it

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Fallen Monk disappoints me.

    On the upshot … Cat should have access to secrets of Night based healing or whatever you want to call how the higher tiers shrug off apparently mortal wounds.

    Hmm. One of the Traitors being a Villain is both good and bad. Good, because it’ll give Cat the opportunity to demonstrate that she’s entirely willing to kill Villains when they cross the line, that she’s not just out to kill Heroes when they do and give Villains a pass. On the other hand, it’s bad because it’s a Villain doing the betraying, which plays into all kinds of preconceptions about the inherent untrustworthiness of Villains that Bard can utilize.

    Liked by 14 people

  3. RubberBandMan

    Oh boy, here we go again.

    “My vision was blackening. I could feel life leaving my body. Serenely, I smiled.

    Gotcha, I thought, and died.”

    From Victory in book 2.

    Liked by 22 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      I was wondering about that, but hasn’t Bard already fought too many times? She’s part of the party that drew against Cat already way back during The Lone Swordsman’s party, though perhaps those clashes don’t count because they were other people’s storys and now it’s a direct clash?

      Liked by 8 people

      1. They were not a mirror of each other during those clashes so they don’t count. Pattern of threes only occur in rivals. Kinda like how Grey pilgrim’s previous draw/defeat didn’t count in his pattern of three against Cat.

        Liked by 11 people

  4. Sir Nil

    I have a theory that the seasonal courts are to some extent, regional. The continued existence of the Autumn court (and likely the Spring Court) seems to prove this. During Cat’s first apotheosis, she was able to see the true nature of Summer and Winter and their dynamic, that is, Winter being a hungry thing which tries to steal Summer’s prosperity to sate it’s unending hunger, with Autumn and Spring continuing this dynamic in the interim. I originally thought that this matched very well with Black’s description of Callow and Praes’ dynamic, how the pattern of Praes is to be hungry and grasp and Callow is to be prosperous and be grasped.
    It is already stated that Arcadia mirror Creation to some extent, but this implies that either the dynamic between grasped and grasping is uniform across the entire world, not just Calernia or that this dynamic is something regional to Calernia or even just Callow and Praes.
    What sorta sealed the deal of this theory for me, is the original Winter King being a mirror to Black and Malicia, who are characterized by their desire to break the pattern between Good and Evil. Who accomplished this, by bringing in its Good counterpart, Callow to their side. Which was why I found it incredibly fitting, that Cat, the girl trained up by Black to be a Callowan Villain in order to solidify Praes’ relationship with Callow, was the one that united Summer and Winter.
    If this theory is untrue, then that means the old Winter King, was Winter King across the whole world, which either means that in every major region outside of Calernia, there are people who are exactly like Black trying to destroy the dynamic between Good and Evil, or that the Fey, have more power over choosing what sort of patterns they embody then previously implied.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. caoimhinh

      From Book 4, Chapter 27:

      “Masego, how is this possible at all?” Hakram asked. “I was under the impression that Arcadia spanned the whole of Creation as a mirror of sorts. Was the Dead King so powerful all the world shook from his transgression?”

      Hierophant clicked his tongue.

      “That is a misunderstanding,” he said. “Consider Arcadia as a single object being looked upon by an infinity of perspectives. To every one, it is a different realm. Across the Tyrian Sea, it likely has a completely different name and seems inhabited by completely different entities. Even the marriage of Winter and Summer is contained within the span of our gaze only, unlikely to have tremors beyond. It is so with this echo as well. Something that was momentous on our understanding of the world is not necessarily so elsewhere.”

      “And so Triumphant wept, for she ruled but a fraction of the world and knew it to be vast beyond her reckoning,” Vivienne quoted softly.

      Liked by 16 people

      1. Sir Nil

        Huh, did not know that was already confirmed, either way that means there may be multiple Seasonal Courts out there, which may be why Autumn is still kicking despite supposedly being consumed to make Winter and Summer’s union. Either that or the power of the seasonal courts can’t be consumed or destroyed in the traditional sense. Cat combining Summer and Winter didn’t consume Autumn or Spring but instead created a new power which overtook them. Perhaps this is what Quartered Seasons is, the assumption that combining or altering Seasons lead to something new, without necessarily destroying or consuming the original Season.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. Miles

          Spring and autumn are born from winter and summer respectively when their conflict ends. The winter king married into the summer court, taking most of the winter court too. But, cat was granted secession from winter and truce from summer as thanks for enabling the union. Technically there were still summer and winter then. The union was summer and Cat + the wild hunt was winter. Cat traded away her fae part to a being too powerful to become fae just from taking the mantle while the Wild Hunt learned from their queen and cast away their fae nature. As there are no winter fae left the conflict was finished and fall was born.

          Not sure if there is a spring now. Maybe not because all fae were summer, or maybe the courts got reset to their original teams.

          Anyway, fall wasn’t consumed in the sense of a dog eating a bratwurst, rather, it was never going to be born again because the technical courts were under truce forever and unable to antagonize each other because of their nature and the bargains they struck.

          Liked by 8 people

          1. Sir Nil

            Huh, that was a very clear way of explaining it. But that still means that Cat effectively created 2 new courts, Twilight and Summer Winter Union, without destroying the power in the previous 4 Courts. Sure she made them inactive, but she made a net positive gain of 2 courts.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Sir Nil

              Well, that is if we assume Winter and Summer are still kicking at the current moment, Twilight certainly is but that court is completely empty save for the Pilgrim’s technical status as its king.

              Liked by 3 people

        1. Pethrai D’arkos

          I’ve always been partial to huldra myself. Though given their respective mythologies it’s easier to call them the Arcadian version of kitsune rather than the other way around.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Note: mortals outwitting otherworldly entities by relying on precise wording or even just twisting it so they get confused (Табличка стоит посреди двора: приходи за деньгами вчера!), is a well-worn staple of a trope.

      There’s a reason Diabolist was smug against the fae and Malicia considered them to be a fun diversion from the court.

      That said, this was REALLY REALLY satisfying, bless this trope ❤

      Liked by 7 people

      1. erebus42

        Oh it definitely is, she just seemed to be acting particularly fae-ish about it, especially in the ways she screwed them over. I guess you can’t be a Faery queen for several years without picking up a few things.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. I would say there are two distinct manners in which fae screw bargainers over and in which humans screw bargainers over, and Cat did both.

          Her first one was a human thing: note how the duchess worried about being left in debt if Cat offered too much, but Cat had no qualms cheating her. There are rules that only fae need to be wary of, and tricks that only humans can resort to. This is a ‘clever bridge bulder letting a goat cross the bridge first’ genre of trickery.

          Her second one, on the other hand, was much more fae typical: make a wager that seems impossible, then just fucking brute force your way through it ’cause that’s just how tough you are.

          Liked by 4 people

  5. > What little skin was left bare by the slender helm of brass and smouldering charcoal, its long cheek guards of carved red opal going down to a round collar of gold touched with flickering embers, was just as dark in tone.

    I’m sorry, but this sentence needs to go into surgery stat, its parenthetical description of the helm is longer (and far more florid) than the actual description of the fae’s skin. 😉 This chapter in particular seems notable for run-on sentences… is that the fae at work? 😉

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Point Point

      That particular sentence is rather long sentence, yes, and it could use some surgery, but I didn’t notice a single run-on sentence in this chapter—even when an unusual number of clauses are joined in a single sentence or clauses are joined in unusual sequences, they are joined using proper punctuation, which makes them proper sentences.

      And to nitpick that particular sentence, the parenthetical description is almost exactly as long as the non-parenthetical portion of the same sentence (if you count words, it is one shorter, and if you count letters, it is one longer). I don’t think that’s a problem in and of itself, but that particular construction is a little hard to read.

      That sentence would be better if it described the helmet, followed by the skin revealed beneath it.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. flashburn283

    Well, I suppose we must give him credit for bravery. Utterly stupid about it but what can you do. First the Dead King tries to assassinate her assistant and sow discord, and now a Paresi traitor attempts to murder the queen.

    Oh dear, this will galvanize all the heroes and villains into cooperating and force the Mirror Knight onto a path of good.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. How dare you! First of all, unlike tyranical absolutist Empire, the leader of Principate is democratically elected out of prominent local leaders and whose power is checked by the assembly of such leaders.
          Second of all, unlike the warmongering Praesi, Principate is known for launching constant peacekeeping operations ensuring the stability of the nearby realms.
          So there. You are completely and utterly wrong.

          Liked by 10 people

          1. Mammon

            First off, chill. You come off very aggressive about this, way more than a fictional franchise’s politics should cause.

            Really more a matter of what label you slap onto it than a true difference. Nothing democratic about a literal and direct war being fought over and over again by not-democratically chosen royals until one stands on top of their own alliance of war and opportunity.

            Procer isn’t evil, but it certainly isn’t a pure kind of good or democratic either and it’s only because Cordelia tries to uphold the freedom and equality of the rules made by her predecessors that it truly feels like a democracy rather than a pretence of allowing the people you control to vote on things you allow lest you get them back elsewhere. Plus all the death conscripts, fatassins, hunger, poverty all for the greed of princes, none of which hurt any less to the actually affected because it was Good doing it.

            Which, if you remember all of the non comically Evil that Praes had back when the story still lingered there, is much more alike the great Evil country than what we may remember of it now. Don’t forget that there are kindness, cultures and people behind the Wasteland. Don’t forget that the stories of flying fortresses, intelligent tigers and orc slavery stories were the ones memorable even after all these years while the true nature of everyday Praes may have faded from our emotional memory of the place.

            Procer is a lot less good than its system suggests it should be, and Praes is a lot less evil than you’re remembering it. Meaning that they are closer together than you might think.


            1. Ah, Poe’s law.

              I’m pretty sure this was transparent satire, which is what the overwrought pathos was meant to hint at. I mean the entire mention of ‘peacekeeping operations’ is blatantly poking at Procer’s colonialism mirroring Praes, considering absolutely nobody in-universe ever used that euphemism. And “elected out of prominent local leaders and whose power is checked by the assembly of such leaders” is a description of the High Council with barely a stretch.

              Liked by 7 people

              1. While I was writing it, I actually thought that Praes is more liberal then Procer. They didn’t even dismissed man-eating tapirs from succession without a trial, while I doubt a peasant could ever become a First Prince.

                Now granted, those are both just barely sapient animals, but the principle of the thing is so important. In Praes, everyone has a shot at being an Emperor, even a Hero. Unless it’s a Duni.

                And now I have a personal headcanon that Emperor Benevolent was a Hero trying to reform Praes from inside.

                Liked by 8 people

                1. Ouch, ouch, ouch lmao

                  And nah, Benevolent was far too selfish for that, from his quotes. “Morality is a force, not a law”. He was just trying to harness the tropes into bending reality in his favor, not actually trying to do good, and the difference is audible.

                  Liked by 3 people

                1. Zoe

                  Procer’s pretty obviously a fantasy-Europe as seen by an American. Like, down to different regions being coded as German, French, Spanish etc. through the use of names and place names.

                  This is kinda hilarious if you know the real places – Tenerife, for instance, is a Mediterranean island with a rep for boozy parties by British tourists, so I can’t really take the Princess of Tenerife seriously…


              1. Mammon

                Ah, I see. While there are indeed parts that suggest sarcasm, be aware that the use of “First of all,” is something that often suggests a serious writer and rant. If it weren’t for that part, I would’ve indeed seen it as sarcasm based on the preceding “How dare you!” But at least from my experience, those that go firstly… (even if there’s never a second following later) are quite serious in what they’re saying.

                Liked by 3 people

  7. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    cover a rain > cover of rain
    armoured and > armoured
    down on my brown > down on my brow
    Tough the spread > Though the spread
    Majesty,” the > Majesty.” The
    Count,” I > Count.” I
    nobleman bowed (maybe add again, since he bowed previously)
    thrust where > thrust through where
    almost admiring > almost in admiration
    of twin fae > of the twin fae
    then then > then the
    Ardour fall > Ardour all
    like snake > like a snake
    bending low beyond > bending beyond
    She still there > She was still there
    me,” the > me.” The
    name,” I > name.” I
    given,” the > given.” The
    deliver,” the Duchess of Rash Tempest grinned, “for > deliver”—the Duchess of Rash Tempest grinned—“for
    thudnerstrike > thunderstrike
    then I turned > before I turned
    onto him, > onto him.
    never,” > never.”
    Duchess,” I > Duchess.” I
    “Gotcha,” > “Gotcha.”
    I I’ve > I’ve
    laying > lying
    is,” she > is.” She

    Liked by 3 people

  8. dadycoool

    Ah! Betrayal! Most unexpected and all the more foul for its most trusted source! How could anyone have ever reasonably predicted such an action?

    It was nice that Cat was able to get herself trapped in a one-on-one fight with someone superior to herself. It has been a while, and I think we’ve all missed this.

    Liked by 12 people

      1. dadycoool

        Several handicaps, like drunkenness, various physical disabilities, and the “no killing with my staff or Night” rule. Still, a toddler could beat up a pro wrestler if the wrestler was hogtied. The wrestler would probably still win, like here, but I think the point is still valid.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Well, she certainly got herself trapped in a fight, and she definitely DID manage to make herself into the underdog with some creative wrangling, it’s just the specific ‘superior’ phrasing I’m contesting XD

          Liked by 2 people

  9. “Though I know not their identity, only that they can make themselves known to us through a certain phrase.”
    “Victory is transient”
    That is an interesting choice considering the following quote:
    “Victory is transient. To seek it is to remain so. I have seen the face of that which is eternal, and it stands beyond struggle.” – Translation of the Kabbalis Book of Darkness, widely attributed to the young Dead King

    Liked by 19 people

      1. ______

        They were probably disseminated through the Book of Darkness as a means to convey the concepts he considered formative in the teenage years he wrote it, like “I stared into the abyss and found what stared back… wanting.”

        Liked by 11 people

    1. DC

      It is worth pointing out that the question she asked was specifically “Do you have any allies in the Arsenal that are not fae”. This question does NOT specify that the allies in question also be aligned with the Wandering Bard.

      Thus, it’s possible that the Monk (and anyone else using that specific phrase) has instead sold them out to the Dead King (or just been compromised by him in general) at the same time that everything else is going on.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That would require these Fae to be working with the Dead King. And for the Dead King to be aware that the Wandering Bard was sending them into the Arsenal.

        Also that the Dead King has assets inside the Arsenal in the first place and that he’s willing to risk their being exposed by Fae activities. The former is unlikely, since one hopes that they’ve been careful about who they allow into the Arsenal, and I would expect the latter to be even more improbable, as I very much doubt that the Dead King would risk an asset that difficult to acquire and/or place inside the Arsenal on someone else’s plan.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Mmmm i think Bar choose that phrase for 2 reasons A)if heard it could link the dead king with all of this so it shift blame to him, B) she finds it funny to use his own phrase in this xD


  10. Okay, I’m just going to type out all of the thoughts that occur to me after reading this chapter.

    The Exalted Poet seems to actually be the heroic version of Masego. Both appear to have powers focused on usurpation and neutralization amplified by speaking in rhyme. While the Blessed Artificer seems to be designated as the rival of the Hierophant, I wouldn’t mind seeing the world warping wrap battle that could go down between Masego and the Poet.

    The Fallen Monk being the traitor is kind of disappointing in how obvious it was. The only reason I didn’t want him to be the traitor was because of how entertaining his future interactions could have been, but it is true to form for a man who betrayed his own gods to keep betraying others. I’d feel satisfied in the knowledge that it’s not one of the more likable Named, but the Duchess did say that they have multiple allies.

    And finally, if Cat’s actually killed here, then she’s going to need a resurrection. The Night may provide here, but there is also the brief introduction of the Sinister Physician to consider. Either way, why just stop at one resurrection (*cough* Tancred *cough*)?

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Masego would be insulted to the very core of his being for even thinking in such vein. The Poet does jot have a proper understanding of magical theory l and is an artist of all people.

      Liked by 16 people

  11. I think sinker here has 2 meanings: 1 is how the Fae just can’t resist the whole hook thing and always bite, the second is that this whole thing is at the core made to draw the spy out and he just did, wonder what nasty surprise Cat has prepared, i mean i bet that isn’t a jnromal knife so just regeneration wouldn’t be enough.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Point Point

      I had a long comment written up in reply to this, but I accidentally deleted it.

      In short, I think “hook, line, and sinker” could refer to two things.

      First, and more obviously, there is Catherine’s plot to expose the Bard’s agent, which was successful in the last sentence of this chapter.

      Second is a possibly plot by the Bard to kill Catherine. She may have set the situation up so that Catherine would put herself near the traitor, leading to a story of the villain’s lieutenant betraying her in her moment of victory.

      I think the first interpretation is stronger, but it depends on what happens next. If Catherine was prepared to be stabbed, then the traitor has fallen for her trap. If she wasn’t, she’s fallen for the Bard’s.

      Regardless of how it turns out, I think that both readings are likely intentional, even if only to leave us hanging, unsure of what will happen next.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Wonder

    People, why am I not fretting about the knife in our Queen’s throat?

    The knife wound might have something to do with Her death in the series or she earns an aspect here .

    Either way, Fallen Monk and Wandering Bard are fucked.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thorium

      It is quite interesting. The chapter litterally ends with Cat taking a killing blow yet nobody here expects her to die. Not because of plot armor but because “the Black Queen has another game afoot”.

      Are we Callow now?

      Liked by 4 people

    2. TBH, considering how helpful this attack is to Cat’s research, I remain skeptical of the Bard being an actual determined antagonist here.

      I’m getting the impression Cat’s getting a “now strike me down, student!” now set up properly where Amadeus utterly failed :3

      Anyway, Night can heal worse wounds on weaker Mighty.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. KageLupus

        Yeah, my impression of the Bard this whole time has been that she is an unwilling, or at least tired, servant to the Game of the Gods and that her ultimate goal is to quit. Assuming that she can’t just get out the normal way (dying) it doesn’t seem like a stretch that the only way for her to stop being is to find some other poor schmuck to take her place.

        Of course, Cat has a different idea of what that role looks like in general, and the Bard knows that. So setting Cat up as a replacement is also something of an FU to her former bosses.

        Liked by 7 people

      2. Dr.D

        From the mouth of the Doddering Sage – “A rival?” he muttered. “A thief? A successor? You keep stories within you that neither your ear nor eye ever knew. Shapes and beats and the sound of the knife kissing flesh.”

        Now, in the original text “successor” was in italics, and only that…
        Was “the knife kissing flesh” a foreshadowing to the knife in jugular being the tipping point to Cat’s new Name?
        And is it a Name that somehow the Intercessor is trying to line up as being her replacement, her “successor”, or is it one that is something new and unique and totally Cat’s, as has been hinted at… or could it be both?
        Was the part of the Intercessor left Cat’s mind actually become more of a seed to a Name?
        We know the Bard wants a way out, wants to end seeing things over and over again like she has for the eons since creation was new.

        Liked by 4 people

  13. Waiting for a Gambit Pileup.
    Aha! The member of your team had stabbed you!
    Aha! I saw your betrayal from the very beginning, your knife is ineffective!
    Aha! I saw you preparing for his betrayal which is why I made your way of making knife ineffective ineffective!
    Aha! Hiw predictable! I knew you would do so, which is why I was prepared to die and go on as a walking corpse!
    Aha! Trying the same trick twice? Who the hell do you think I am? I saw your trick and preemptively sokd you out to the Dead King. Try walking now, bitch!
    Aha! I knew you would conscribe him into your efforts, which is why I had made a bargain with him before you to screw you over together!
    Aha! I knew you would do it which is why I had sold your private alliance to every Hero and now you are an accomplice of Dead King! Just as planned.
    Aha! Trifling Wandering Bard, you dare? I knew that was your plan all along, which is why I had discussed that with heroes beforehand. Now that you had cooperated with Dead King, you are an enemy of an entire Grand Alliance!
    Aha! You fool, that is what I wanted you to do! For you see…

    Liked by 17 people

  14. Oh and, for the “WB is good” camp. What if she planned this attack to help Cat with Quartered Seasons, while at the same time crash-testing both the defenses of the Arsenal and the legal structure of T&T? At the same time weeding out potential weak links and possible traitors, and at the same time uniting the rest against common threat, while planting the seeds of doubt about Cat’s default evilness in Heroes mind? Also maybe there is a lost hurt puppy somewhere in the Arsenal who wouldn’t be found if not for all the commotion.

    Liked by 12 people

      1. Bard has been antagonizing Catherine for no particular discernible reason for a while now, starting with her appearance at Second Liesse. There was literally nothing she did there except smile and wave – Cat wouldn’t have known it was her and her break with Black would have been harsher according to her own words. The conversation in the campfire arc, too – Bard went all hammy villain on Cat, and honestly that had approximately no result except cementing Cat’s antipathy.

        Bard evidently DOES have a motivation to rile Cat up against herself, for whatever reason.

        …and she seriously appears to be helping 0.o

        Liked by 6 people

        1. RoflCat

          I think it’s because a villain you know is easier to deal with than one you don’t.

          By revealing herself/her motive (or rather, the one she want Cath to know), Bard led Cath into certain mindset instead of remaining a loose cannon.
          Much in the way she made herself ‘undeniable’ ally to Heroes that led Pilgrim to basically ‘backstab’ Cath by siding with Bard in crucial moment.
          Of course Bard isn’t omnipotent, as Augur and Tyrant were able to outplayed her in their way, Augur by reading what Bard want and mess up the timing so the result will be different, while Tyrant hid the Hierarch until he came to his name.

          Basically Cath was an unpredictable factor, so Bard made herself the antagonist to make Cath more predictable.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hunted, not Haunted, and nobody with the Name Enchanter is involved, which is why I was confused.

            Anyway, yeah, agreed. This accomplishes that alongside dissolving the potential bomb of deadly rivalry going off when Cat isn’t around and can’t get there in time to handle the situation.

            Liked by 1 person

        1. dadycoool

          By pointing the Autumn Court at Cat, she points Cat at the Autumn Court, which we all know she’ll triumph over eventually, killing the owners of his name and freeing him of obligation.

          Liked by 2 people

  15. daegone823

    So is this fae with the bastard sword the same fae who killed all the gallowborn now he has a different title so he is happy for revenge?

    Is Cat going for apotheosis again this time with a name?

    If the fallen monk came back…(sob) the poet had indeed died tragically. I should have seen it when they spoke about there backstories past chapter. It was a death flag.

    Is it weird that the fallen monk carried that wineskin throughout the whole fight lol. Just saying super cool sad to see him go, Cat has a reputation of killing anybody that betrays her.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ohJohN

      I thought the fae were essentially recycled between seasons, so presumably some remnant of the Duke’s essence reformed into the current Count. Didn’t someone from Winter, early on in the story, mention something about past lives in previous cycles (maybe the King or Prince)?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Big I

        The King of Winter mentioned that the crown goes to a different Prince or Princess each cycle. He recalled his life as a Prince when speaking to Cat.


  16. ActionKermit

    Wait, did Cat just renounce her own Crown by telling Larat’s last words to the Fae? If she’s the dark mirror of the Grey Pilgrim, we may have just witnessed the counterpart to the moment when he gave up the title of the Holy Sejun.


  17. Mammon

    Cat: *Inner monologues a couple of chapters ago that she put her sleeve-knife back in her arsenal after all these years.*

    Cat: I shall defeat this Count without using either my staff or Night!
    Duchess: But you have no other weapons…
    Me: *Expects what’s coming up*
    Cat: *Kills the Count using his own sword*
    Me: Did… Did EE forget that he narrated that part to us before?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thorium

        Not like she ever started a fight by whipping it out. It is a finisher for when the enemy is off balance and expecting an empty hand.

        Still more useful to keep in reserve given the density of enemies and traitors around.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Also, finishing the fight by using the opponent’s weapon is more in the spirit of the “I can beat him with my hands tied behind my back” wager, a sleeve knife is decidedly less cool.

          And cool, as we all know, very much matters ^^

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Relyt118

      Possible explanations:

      Drunk Cat is forgetful Cat.

      Sleeve-knife doesn’t have the “oomph” to down a Count without Night backing it up, which she can’t use here.

      *How* someone wins can be important in a story, and Fae are all about story. Pulling out a hidden knife could be clever, or it could be treacherous. Defeating your enemy with his own sword could show strength and skill. One of those is much more likely to bite you in the was story-wise than the other.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There’s also the quite likely possibility that Cat is holding onto the sleeve knives (remember, in the early models, there were at least two knives) for dealing with traitor Named.

        I’m pretty sure that the only people in the Arsenal who know about Cat’s sleeve knife rig are Masego and Archer. Arguably Bard has the possibility of knowing because she’s full of hax and bullshit, but I don’t think that Cat’s ever used it where Bard definitely would know.

        It’s been literally years since she used it – in all honesty, the vast majority of proje in the Arsenal won’t have a clue about its existence – they won’t know that Cat’s ever had the sleeve knife, far less that she might be carrying it now. It’s a very good secret weapon/holdout for when traitors think that have the upper hand on her and/or that she’s been disarmed, or for when idiots are being played and think the same.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. RoflCat

      Probably because, narratively, it wasn’t a moment the knife’s surprise reveal was meant for.

      The Count fight practically guaranteed to result in her favor because she was a ‘detective’ working to find clues and the bet against the Fae was to get info (the 5 questions)
      Now we get the reveal of the traitor, maybe a captive Batman (Catwoman?) moment while the villain gloat and THEN she can pull out the hidden knife to free herself or something like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Xinci

    Fascinating that he used the code phrase of the DK’s realization after his interactions with Bard. Bit surprised Cat is surprised at seeing the same Fae again once it transitioned. Fairly sure we got several mentions of how they come back for each cycle, with the main changes being their role in the story of that cycle. Given she had a whole theory on things still being intact its a bit weird, well I guess it was Masegos and she doesn’t pay that much attention to metaphysics.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. agumentic

    I wonder if we will see Larat again, before the story ends. His outstanding move was exceptionally sleek, and it could be nice to see his cunning, now unbound by oaths.

    Liked by 7 people

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